The third and fourth permanent molars to erupt are often referred to as the wisdom teeth. In most cases, these are the last teeth to come in. Unfortunately, there are often problems with the wisdom teeth. They may fail to erupt, or only erupt partially (known as impaction), which can be quite painful. Often, the mouth is too crowded to allow the wisdom teeth to come in or form properly, which can cause serious dental issues.
Do I have wisdom teeth?
The wisdom teeth erupt for most people when they are between 16 and 23 years old. Most adults have wisdom teeth. To check to see if you have wisdom teeth, check to see if you have three or four permanent molars. Those are the wisdom teeth. If your wisdom teeth have not erupted, our dentist will need to perform a digital x-ray to determine whether or not your wisdom teeth ever developed and to see if they are at the correct angle.
Will all wisdom teeth need to be extracted?
No, in some cases the wisdom teeth will erupt properly and will not cause any problems with the adjacent teeth. In this case, the dentist will leave the wisdom teeth intact. However, if the tooth has erupted partially or if you have gum tissue that has grown over the tooth, you will need to have the tooth removed. This area, as well as the surrounding teeth and gums, will be more prone to dental problems such as infection and tooth abscesses. The gums will also be prone to suffering from inflammation.
In some patients, the wisdom teeth develop or erupt at an incorrect angle. This can make brushing your teeth correctly difficult and leave you more prone to cavities and tooth decay. If this occurs you will need to have the tooth removed. In some cases, your wisdom tooth may erupt properly, but will still need to be removed if your other teeth become crowded or if our dentist feels that it may cause you problems in the future.
How is a wisdom tooth extracted?
Once it has been determined that your wisdom teeth have erupted improperly, or that they need to be removed for other reasons, our dentist will schedule you for an extraction. You will be given the option to choose between having a local anesthetic for your extraction or general anesthesia to put you to sleep for the process. Once your chosen method of anesthetic has been administered, the tooth will be loosened and elevated before being pulled. If your tooth has not erupted, you may require dental surgery in order for our dentist to properly remove the tooth. If you are having more than one tooth removed you may require additional appointments.
What is it like recovering from a wisdom tooth extraction?
Recovery from a wisdom tooth extraction can be quick but generally takes between 48 and 72 hours. During this time you may have some minor bleeding at the extraction site, though this should not continue past 24 hours following the extraction. In most cases, you will be given pain medication to ease any discomfort you may be feeling. If you experience swelling at the extraction site, you may wish to use an ice pack.
For a short time following the extraction, you will be asked to refrain from eating and drinking. You will also be provided with a list of special care instructions to follow for the 72-hour healing period. Following these instructions carefully will help to ensure that you do not develop any problems after your wisdom tooth has been removed.
What are the potential complications of wisdom teeth extraction?
A wisdom tooth extraction is a very safe, common, and uncomplicated procedure. However, from time to time complications may develop during the healing period after an extraction. Most commonly this will be dry socket, or alveolar osteitis. This happens when the small blood clot at the extraction site dislodges. This can cause the underlying bone to become inflamed, causing serious pain. If this happens following your extraction you will need to call our office immediately for treatment. Our dentist can stimulate the site in order to form a new clot or provide you with packing material that will act in place of a clot.
If you experience any oral trauma following your extraction before the site is fully healed, you may develop issues with the temporomandibular joint or alveolar nerve. Again, any abnormal amount of pain or bleeding beyond 24 hours should be reported to our office so that you may be treated.
If you have any questions about wisdom teeth, or if you would like to know if you should have your wisdom teeth extracted, call our office today for a consultation. We will be happy to answer any questions you might have, and look forward to helping you achieve a beautiful, pain-free smile.